Coliseum, county leaders question a downtown arena

A consultant's rendering shows that a downtown arena could be possible across from Parkview Field.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Will a downtown arena work in Fort Wayne? Just the possibility has drawn up both excitement and concerns.

City leaders unveiled the results of a downtown arena study Thursday, which said there was opportunity for a mid-sized arena downtown. One of the key questions for Allen County leaders: Will it draw business away from the Memorial Coliseum?

In October, Randy Brown, Coliseum general manager, wasn’t sure there was another 100 to 150 extra events that a downtown venue could draw. His position hadn’t changed Thursday.

The Coliseum has gone through major renovations in recent years. It has a large arena that seats up to 13,000 and an expo center that can seat between 250 and 8,000 depending on a client’s needs.

Regardless, the study completed by a Chicago-based firm shows potential for a downtown arena that seats around 5,500. It states:

While the Coliseum has many space options, it is difficult for it to be all things to all events…The Coliseum has a difficult time accommodating all of the events that would like to use the facility, given demand for the same dates during many months of the year. 

The Allen County Commissioners oversee the Coliseum. Commissioner Nelson Peters thinks it’s too early to tell of the downtown arena is a good or bad idea. He said the county has already used millions of taxpayer dollars to build and expand the Coliseum, which has since turned a profit.

Peters warns that if a downtown arena cuts into the Coliseum’s profit, taxpayers who will have to cover the loss.

“Our big key is, and what we’ve told the mayor going forward, is we want to ensure that for the Coliseum, as an example, that there is indeed a safety net that allows for the Coliseum to continue to sustain itself, its operations, without having to dig into the taxpayers pockets,” he said.

The Coliseum and Embassy are  represented on the committee charged with researching the viability of a downtown arena.

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